Monday, August 24, 2009

A little bit about Cusco

I arrived in Cusco one week ago yesterday. It was a bit of shock coming from Ollantaytambo which is a small rural village surrounded by the Andes and Inca ruins. My first night in Cusco, I stayed in a nice hostel that MJ recommended. Most of the travelers that stay in Yanapay are volunteers of some sort, helping children in schools, etc. The hostel had a good vibe but I just wanted a shower, a chat with Scotty, and some sleep, so I did not socialize much. The next day, was my first day at Spanish school. After class, I met my Cusqueno padre. His name is Tomas and he is a very enthusiastic man. Miluska is his wife, and Pilar, his daughter, who is a darling 11 year old. Their home is a typical Peruvian middle class home. I have my own room and bathroom but the shower is crazy. Most people who have hot water heat it with electicity. There is an electrical contraption attached to the shower head. My showers happen to be either freezing cold or blistering hot. Supposedly when you turn the water pressure on high the water becomes tepid. This is not true. But, I have devised a tactic for showering now that involves a little bit of electrical shock and a lot of patience. I have my showers down to less than 6 minutes.

My family is very pleasant. They feed me and watch out for me and they make it clear that I should make myself at home. We have discussed a few of the things that I find disturbing about Cusco. One of which is the smog. Even though people generally do not own their own cars, there are hundreds of taxis and buses. Each weekday, I walk Avenida Sol which is a commercial street - all the banks, tour shops, and business reside here - I have to cover my face with my scarf in order breath. I wonder about the health of the people who live here. Their lungs must be terribly damaged. After 3 days, I was coughing and I have problems with my nose. Smog is icky, really icky.

Cusco is a beautiful cosmopolitan city with a really interesting history. The architecture is amazing. In the Plaza de Armas there are these huge ornate colonial churches built on Inca foundations. Although the Spaniards destroyed a lot of the Inca architecture, there are still prominent signs of Inca history throughout the city. The big ruins above the city, Sacsayhuaman, are still somewhat intact. Althoug, I have read that much of it was destroyed. The Incas believed the llama, puma, and serpintine to be sacred animals. Much of the architecture contains images of these animals. Cusco was actually designed to be shaped like a puma. From the mirador, I could not really tell that it was shaped like a puma though. Despite the smog, hords of people, and the pushy vendors, I am starting to see the beauty of Cusco.

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